As foreign buyers return to Spain in increasing numbers, some will be tempted by the dream of a rural idyll in the Spanish countryside, where some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe can be found. However, the risks of buying in a rural environment are significantly higher than in consolidated urban areas. Regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt explains.
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Director of Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers
8th of April 2016
As a result of publishing last month’s article on Holiday Rentals Laws in Andalusia (Decree 28/2016), which applies only to residential properties, I got asked to write up something on rural holiday rentals in Andalusia.
Decree 20/2002 is in fact a fourteen-year-old law so rural landlords should not be going overboard over it regarding fines for non-compliance. I stress I am not advocating for non-compliance, merely observing that this law was passed well over a decade now.
Due to the sheer length of this decree, this article is by no means exhaustive. In fact I have greatly abridged the decree focusing only on the points that will interest the vast majority of rural landlords. It is advisable landlords get hold of their own translated copies of this long decree as I will not be analyzing all the minutiae as it interests only a minority of people (specifically Annex III dealing with rural houses which goes into a wild level of detail on the requirements one must comply with i.e. size of toilets).
Andalusia approved on the 29th of January 2002 this decree (sic). Andalusia’s Holiday Rental Law was officially published in the BOJA on the 2nd of February of the same year. This decree has been amended several times over the last decade by numerous laws. The most up-to-date version is this one which reflects all the legal changes:
The official name is Decree 20/2002, de Turismo en el Medio Rural y Turismo Activo.
This includes the following types of rural property:
• viviendas turísticas de alojamiento rural (better known by its acronym VTAR).
• casas rurales.
• complejos turísticos rurales.
The best way to go about it is simply analysing point by point what it establishes.
Obligation to Register your Rural Property for Rental Purposes
In compliance with this Decree, and with Law 13/2011, of Tourism in Andalusia, landlords need to register before Andalusia’s Tourist Registry (or ATR going forward).
You can download and fill in the form supplied by the ATR called ‘Declaración Responsable‘ and hand it over at one of the ‘Delegaciones Territoriales de Turismo’ once completed. Registration is free unlike in other regions of Spain. More details on registration in a section further below titled ‘How to Register your Holiday Rental in Andalusia’.
If your command of Spanish is low, you can hire a lawyer to do this on your behalf in exchange of a reasonable fee.
The following properties are excluded from being regulated by Decree 20/2002:
• Properties which are lent to friends or family without an exchange of money (free).
• Properties that are let to the same individual for a continuous period of time exceeding two months. In which case it will be regarded as a standard rental agreement subject to Spain’s Tenancy Act. More details in my in-depth article: Spain’s Tenancy Act (LAU).
• Residential properties, located in what is legally classified as urban land, are expressly excluded as they are subject to their own legislation: Decree 28/2016. You can find more details in my in-depth article: Holiday Rental Laws in Andalusia (Decree 28/2016).
• Apartamentos Turísticos which are ruled by Decree 194/2010.
• Villages with a population census over 20,000 will not be considered rural for the purpose of this decree.
Holiday Rural Rentals: Definition
Article 9 defines them. They will comply with the following three points:
• To have the appropriate architectonic rural characteristics of the region they are located in.
• To be integrated with the natural surroundings.
• To meet the minimum requirements set out in this Decree for each rural type available.
Types of Rural Lodgements
• Rural houses (casas rurales).
• Rural hotel lodgments and rural tourist rentals (establecimientos hoteleros y apartamentos turísticos rurales).
• Rural tourist resorts (complejos turísticos rurales).
Rural properties can be classified in different groups depending on their specialization:
• Agro tourism. Exploitation of agricultural and livestock resort which lodgers can participate in its activities.
• Rural hostel. Devised for short-term to explore and enjoy the rural surroundings and nature. It will have kitchens for the use of lodgers besides being able to offer its own food catering. Rooms for up to three people will be allowed in bunk beds. A ratio of one toilet for every 7 lodgers.
• Nature classes. Thought to educate tourists on Nature’s ways. Group orientated.
• Forest housing. Linked to the exploitation of forests, mountains, lakes and water related natural resources.
• Cave house.
• Huts. Wood or straw thatched dwellings.
• Cortijo house. Used to exploit the surrounding fields i.e. plantation.
• Farm school.
• Hacienda. A more complex and larger structure than a cortijo i.e. olive plantation
• Refugio. Structure devised for mountain hikers to dwell in a few nights in hard to reach locations in the wilderness.
• Other. This includes all rural property that do not qualify for one of the previous categories.
• Access to wheeled vehicles must be enabled with visible signposts. Brochures with directions on how to get there must be supplied to tourists. If the landlord cannot do this he must provide himself the means of transport to and from the lodging premises.
• Drinkable water. Not inferior to 200 litres per lodger if not connected to the mains grid.
• Electric energy.
• Fully stocked first aid kit.
As mentioned in the article’s introduction I will skip whole sections of the Decree and focus only on the two typical rural properties rented out by expat landlords.
1. Rural Houses (casas rurales)
• Independent structures.
• No more than three dwellings within the same building as a limit.
• No more than 20 lodgers allowed at any time.
• They will be classified in two categories: basic and superior. Superior has obviously more stringent requirements to meet.
Annex III holds a full list of requirements rural houses must meet to be rented out legally. For reasons of space I will not be including it. It is strongly advised that landlords download Annex III and have it fully translated. Annex III can be found in pages 21 to 24 of this PDF link: Decreto 20/2002.
2. Rural Rentals (viviendas turísticas de alojamiento rural or better known by its acronym VTAR)
• Architectonically independent stuctures such as labour house, tool huts, barns, cowsheds, stables etc.
• Offered to the public in general to be rented one or more times a year on a short-term basis.
• To offer strictly only lodging services (not additional services such as restaurant facilities or daily change of laundry and bed linen)
• No more than three dwellings allowed in the same building.
• Maximum of twenty vacancies offered.
• To be adequately furnished.
• The lodging cannot exceed 3 months within a calendar year.
• All lodgers, not just the one making the reservation, will be fully identified in compliance with current Security laws (popularly dubbed as ‘Gag’ Law). Lodgers will supply a copy of their personal ID/passport. Like in hotels, all guests will be required to fill in and sign a registration form on entry. In compliance with art 7.2 this registration form must be then sent to the Police or Guardia Civil for every guest over the age of 16 years old within the next 24 hours of the accommodation following Security Laws from 2003 (Orden INT/1922/2003, de 3 de julio, sobre libros-registro) and from 2015. You can send a copy of the filled in and signed registration form personally, by fax or else by e-mail. Registration forms are standardized by law; click here for a sample copy.
• Online registration: follow this link to submit by e-mail to the Guardia Civil a copy of your completed Registration Form.
• Registration forms must be stored by landlords for a period of up to three years for the inspection of the Security Forces.
How to register your Rural Holiday Rental in Andalucía – Inscription before Andalusia’s Tourism Registry (ATR)
All landlords that wish to rent out their rural properties in Andalusia must register their property before the ATR prior to offering and advertising rentals or else face being fined for clandestine activity.
You can self-register here:
Download, print and fill in the form supplied by the ATR called ‘Declaración Responsable para el acceso o ejercicio de la actividad’; specifically the annex on page 7. Once done, hand it over physically at one of the ‘Delegaciones Territoriales de Turismo’ in the region where your property is located. It can also be completed online if you have a digital certificate enabled. Unlike in other regions of Spain registration is free in Andalusia. You can find a translated version of the form in English here.
• Complete the Declaración Responsable meeting the requirements outlined above in Annex II & III depending on your rural property type.
• Passport copy of landlord and/or NIE number will be required.
• Property details, cadastral reference, number of potential guests. Supply copy of last IBI receipt that mentions ten cadastral number. More on IBI tax in my article Non-Resident Taxes in Spain.
• Landlord’s personal details and an address for official notifications.
• Details of management agency or designated person if landlord appoints someone to act on his behalf. Any change in details must be communicated so the ATR remains accurate at all times.
• Dates on when the rural rental facility is set to open.
• Mandatory insurance policies (if applicable).
• Details of this inscription will be passed on to the local town hall.
Fines and Sanctions
They are divided into three categories:
a.- Light offence. Can be either a written warning or a sanction with fines up to €2,000.
b.- Serious offence. Sanctioned with fines ranging from €2,001 up to €18,000. The premises may be shut down temporarily at the authority’s discretion (for periods less than 6 months), the rental licence may be revoked temporarily.
c.- Very serious offence. Sanctioned with fines ranging from €18,001 up to €150,000. The premises may be shut down temporarily at the authority’s discretion (for periods spanning between 6 months to 3 years), the rental licence may be revoked indefinitely.
If the Authorities (La Junta) catch you red-handed renting out a rural non-declared property (that is not registered at the ATR) this may be regarded as a serious offence.
If you own rural property in the region of Andalusia, and plan to rent it out as a tourist accommodation, make sure your property is first registered before the ATR. And to close, do not forget to declare and pay tax in Spain on your rural rental income (you can read my article Non-Resident Taxes in Spain for more information on your tax liabilities as landlord).
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